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Wave of Convictions in Atlanta Cheating Scandal Brings The Case to a Close, But the Real Threat To Education Remains in The Classroom


Credit: Kent D. Johnson

Photo Credit: Kent D. Johnson


More than six months have passed since opening statements were first presented in what has beendeemed the largest cheating scandal in U.S. history and now a wave of convictions will finally bring the case to a close. A group of more than 10 Atlanta public school educators were convicted on Wednesday for their roles in inflating standardized test scores along with a series of other immoral practices.


A total of 35 educators were involved in the, case but 21 reached plea agreements and two others, including Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, passed away before they could stand trial.


Of the 12 educators that decided to take it to court, only one was acquitted of any wrongdoing.


The other 11 were immediately placed in handcuffs and escorted out of the courtroom by authorities, as ordered by Judge Jerry W. Baxter of Fulton County Superior Court.


It marked the end of a lengthy case, a parade of former educators marching out the courtroom, but a feeling of victory remained absent.


It didn’t feel as if dangerous criminals were being taken off the streets or that the quality of Atlanta students’ educations had been rescued with the slam of a gavel.


Rather, there was a sense of sadness at watching this spectacle, the educators served up as sacrifice because they believed they had to cut corners to give the impression of success for inner-city kids.


They all have been hit with charges of racketeering and others faced additional charges such as making false statements. The felony charge of racketeering carries up to 20 years in prison.


District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr., said justice finally has been served.


“Our entire effort in this case was simply to get our community to stop and take a look at our educational system,” Howard said, according to The New York Times. “I think because of the decision of this jury today that people will stop. I think people will stop, and they will make an assessment of our educational system.”


And decide what?


There are many who would argue that the jury’s decision has no connection to that greater cause.


The sheer exposure of the massive cheating scandal launched national discussions about America’s educational system and whether or not the constant use of standardized tests were beneficial for students and faculty alike.


While many educators may not partake in such grand cheating schemes, there are still a number of educators across the nation who feel pressured to do so or find ways to improve students’ test scores through other less detectable but still dishonest means.


That’s the ripple effect of the high-stake standardized tests that are now mandatory in nearly every public school thanks to the 2001 federal education law, No Child Left Behind.


“These tests are high-stakes because they trigger serious consequences for students (like grade promotion and graduation); for schools (like extra resources, reorganization, or closure); for districts (the loss of federal funds); and for school employees (bonuses, demotions, poor evaluations, or firing),” NPR explained when the 12 educators first went to trial. “And so the Atlanta trial should bring two questions: How common is cheating on these tests? And short of cheating, what else might be happening in schools as a result of these tests?”


In theory, these standardized tests are supposed to ensure that students are learning vital material in the classroom.

Atlanta cheating scandal

Photo Credit: Kent D. Johnson

In reality, they may be working directly against this objective.

With so much resting on the results of these tests, many educators may decide to “teach to the test” and focus on getting students to memorize certain bits of information rather than facilitating comprehension.

Other teachers may restrict the content of their course to materials likely to be on the test, which would be great for test scores but would also severely limit the amount of information students could be getting during class time.

Standardized tests have been perceived by some as a fair barometer of a child’s educational career, whether he is equipped with the knowledge to flourish both inside and outside the classroom.

But more often than not, the tests are really acting as the masked executioner, waiting to bring down the Guillotine on federal funding, graduation hopes, school resources, teacher promotions and even jobs if scores don’t match expectations.

It’s also important to note that these test scores don’t take into account the fact that a wide array of students may comprehend information but are simply poor test-takers. The added pressure of realizing the weight of such exams cam only further stress students who need to have a calm, sound mindset when taking exams.

As 11 educators were handcuffed and placed behind bars, we are reminded that the real threat to the future of children’s education in America is the amount of value being placed on tests that have not been proven to be accurate in measuring a student’s intelligence, academic progress or potential.

“The tiny minority of teachers who cheat cross an ethical bright line that harms the entire enterprise of education,” NPR noted. “But the Atlanta trial should be an opportunity to consider what might be happening in the gray areas as well.”









"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins









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I'm curious as to what evidence they have that actually proves this many teachers all across Atlanta, in different schools, and most of whom probably do not even know each other, let alone 'conspired together' to all cheat on tests.


I'm also curious as how this Atlanta cheating scandal remained so heavily covered by our "main stream" media, while this same media never mentions the "cheating scandals" that have also been occurring in schools in schools, districts, and cities that were not predominately Black.

Demonizing Teachers, Privatizing Schools: The Big Lies and Big Plans Behind the Atlanta School Cheating Scandal

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Should we be wondering if the prosecution of cheating Atlanta teachers for racketeering was racist? Or should black parents and educators be leading a movement against high-stakes standardized testing as the gateway tool to privatizing public education in black and brown communities across the country?

Demonizing Teachers, Privatizing Schools: The Big Lies and Big Plans Behind the Atlanta School Cheating Scandal

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

When drama queen Fulton County judge Jerry Baxter demanded public post-conviction apologies from Atlanta teachers already convicted of racketeering lest he hand them double digit sentences, it struck raw nerves in parts of black America. Black pastors and community leaders called press conferences. They held rallies and issued stern statements. They denounced the judge for making “common criminals” out of black teachers. Inevitably, they wondered whether white teachers would have been prosecuted or subjected to post-conviction humiliation of this kind.

They're asking the wrong question. What they ought to ask is why the teacher perp walk is being served up in the first place. They need to ask who profits from the continuing crisis in public education in black and brown communities? The answers are not hard to find.

The whole thing, from the indictment of Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Beverly Hall, who died before the trial was complete, to the posturing of public officials and corporate media about “cheating the children” is the latest act of a long, long fake crisis. Judge Baxter's histrionics too, in which he called the cheating scandal “the sickest thing that's ever happened to Atlanta,” were a great contribution to the story our billionaire-owned media wants to paint about public education.

The one-percenters need us to believe public education in our communities is some new kind of sewer infested with incompetent teachers who are cheating children and the public every week they draw paychecks. The long, long crisis of public education has been designed, engineered and provoked by powerful bipartisan forces to justify their long game, which is the privatization of public education. That's the Big Plan.

Since at least 2001, when George W. Bush's conservative Republicans teamed up with Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy's liberal Democrats to pass and implement the No Child Left Behind Act, it's been the policy of both capitalist parties implemented by the federal Department of Education to create, to provoke and to exacerbate a phony educational crisis. This program of crisis-creation has been backed by Wall Street, by banksters and hedge fund types, by giant corporations like Wal-Mart and powerful right wing interest groups like the US Chamber of Commerce as well as the so-called philanthropic tentacles of corporate America like the Gates, Broad, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations. The solution to the fake crisis has been the whole industry of testing experts, turnaround consultants, diploma mills for fake principals, lucrative charter school companies and their contractors, and the private but government sanctioned agencies that rate school districts. Even the agencies that rate school districts are staffed by the same “run the school like a business” experts approved by the US Chamber of Commerce who were employed to write President Obama's Race to the Top program, which punishes school districts that don't privatize or implement “run the school like a business 'reforms'” fast enough.

High stakes standardized testing, like the tests educators cheated on in Atlanta, is an essential tool in provoking the crisis, but it's a big lie. These kinds of tests don't reflect student progress or teacher competency. They track to family income, and family income in the US correlates largely to race. So as Glen Ford put it back in 2012

“The standardized tests were bombs, designed to explode the public schools and the teaching profession. Everyone involved knew that inner city kids would fail the tests in huge numbers, setting the infernal machine in motion for the closing of schools and the wholesale firing of teachers...”

The bombs were planted not just in Atlanta, but in thousands of school districts across the nation, with predictable results. A 2012 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionrevealed that the same suspicious patterns of radical test score improvement seen in Atlanta could be found in more than 200 school districts across the country, from Philly to Portland, and from Alaska to Alabama. Clearly, cheating teachers and principals in Georgia were and likely still are doing the same things the same way as their colleagues across the country.

It's also very true that Atlanta's teachers were singled out. Other teachers in other states were merely stripped of their jobs and professional licenses. Teach For America alums Michelle Rhee and Kayla Henderson both headed Washington DC's public schools when massive cheating scandals occurred, but unlike Atlanta's Beverly Hall, neither they nor their subordinates are in any danger of prosecution. Atlanta on the other hand, is closely associated with the notion of African Americans running big cities, so making the example of black educators in Atlanta makes perfect political sense for those orchestrating the crisis. Still we shouldn't feel too sorry for the Atlanta teachers. Beverly Hall turned big chunks of Atlanta's public schools over to privatizers, and even helped divert $140 million a year for more than 20 years away from Atlanta's public school children to line the pockets of developers and gentrifiers in a lucrative boondoggle Atlantans know as “the Beltline.”

If the black political class and black educators really stood for the interests of their students and communities they would be educating black parents and students across the country about their right to opt out of tests that serve no legitimate educational purpose, as teachers in Chicago and Seattle are already doing.

But that's problematic too. Opposing standardized testing would place the black political class in conflict not with the slippery nebulous demons of institutional racism, but biting some of the very real and easy-to-find hands in corporate America that feed it. Taking issue with standardized testing, Common Core and the drive to privatize education would put black educators in opposition to corporate America, to the Gates, Walton Family (Wal-Mart), Eli Broad and other foundations, and to Republicans and Democrats including President Obama and Arne Duncan, his Secretary of Education. This is not an easy thing to do when national black “civil rights” organizations from the National Action Network and the National Urban League have eagerly accepted corporate-engineered school reform with corporate dollars, and President Obama is deeply beholden to the charter school sugar daddies.

So it looks like we can count on our black political class to stick to the script on the Atlanta teachers cheating scandal. They'll talk about whether the prosecution was racist, and they'll wring self-righteous hands over teachers “cheating the children.” But they won't question those who set up the rigged game of high stakes testing or why.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)

1 Comment



Thank you.

So much garbage has been written about Atlanta. It is both refreshing and important to read insights that put this horror in the context of  the one-percenters' agenda.

Thankyou .


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